CINCINNATI — A group of five lifelong Republicans gathered in Cincinnati on Wednesday to call on Ohioans to vote for Democrat Tim Ryan over Republican J.D. Vance in November’s US Senate election.
“We’re here today to appeal for our Republican friends throughout Ohio to vote for candidates who reflect Republican values — whether or not they have an ‘R’ or a ‘D’ next to their name,” said Phil Heimlich, an attorney and conservative leader who has served on Cincinnati City Council and as a Hamilton County Commissioner. “We believe that in the race for the US Senate, Tim Ryan reflects those values far more than J.D. Vance.”
The participants spoke at the base of the Lincoln Statue in Lytle Park and spoke about how their personal experiences as longtime conservatives have led them to endorse a Democrat over a Republican. In Heimlich’s words, unlike J.D. Vance, “Tim Ryan doesn’t play up to extremists, doesn’t peddle conspiracy theories.”
Some participants described how what they viewed as rising extremism within the Republican Party pushed them to become Democrats.
“I was a lifelong Republican… until Donald Trump changed the face of what I knew the Republican Party to be,” said Meegan Baxter, a businesswoman and longtime resident of Hamilton County. “I fully support the Democratic Party right now, and Tim Ryan, I think he will do an excellent job. I’m so impressed by what he’s done so far.”
Another participant described his longtime background as a committed leader in local Republican politics.
“I was associated with the Republican Party all of my adult life. I was active in Party leadership for over 20 years prior to 2019 and enjoyed over a decade of GOP appointments to the board of elections, most of that as chairperson. In addition, I served as Shelby County Executive GOP chair between 2007 and 2015. Suffice to say, I was immersed,” said Chris Gibbs, a farmer from Shelby County and the president of Rural Voices USA, a group that advocates for better policies for rural regions. “I first registered as a member of the Democratic Party in May of this year because that’s what I saw in Tim Ryan. I hope others will find the hope I found in Tim, of other Democratic candidates — and maybe, just maybe, a home in the Democratic Party.”
The Wednesday event in Lytle Park was the first leg of a multi-prong “Think for Yourself Ohio” statewide roadshow organized by WelcomePAC, an effort by moderate Democrats to build a big-tent party that reaches out to and welcomes Republicans and independents in Ohio and across the country.